The spastic, ear-needling noise surrounding Times New Viking’s songs has always been hard to justify. Sure, their music has an ornery, almost inhospitable exterior, but the cores of albums like Rip it Off are happily indebted to spontaneous pop — the trio’s glimmering yelps are at once both mangled and ambrosial, and a hell of a lot more disarmed than all the tape-hiss around it.
However, Dancer Equired is probably the most transparent the band has ever sounded. The guitars and vocal channels sail by without any ruptured signals, but they still sound charmingly fragile. It’s the first time the band has sequestered themselves away in a studio, and the time away has seemingly allowed them to focus more on the melodies than the texture. The miniature songs can be genuinely described as pleasant without asterisk. Winsome ballads like “It’s a Culture” and “Ever Falling in Love” take the most space; while honey-dipped power-pop jams like “Fuck Her Tears” serve as the muscle, all with that trademark anti-social shrill nowhere to be found. A few of the songs even make it past the 3-minute mark, which could be considered an epic by lo-fi standards.
It seems as if Dancer Equired is a record from a band tired of their sound being put ahead of their songs. Times New Viking’s earlier, more DIY-minded efforts blaze by with such potent vitality; it was hard to grasp the individual components of the album. Most of them sound like a compressed, caffeinated garage jam, which certainly has its place but doesn’t usually allow for a jumping-off point. But the Equired songs slow down, shift tempo, tell stories, and occasionally fade out — coming together like a much more traditional sounding rock record with an evolving pace and discernable peaks. It’s a risky maneuver for a band of such a specific aesthetic, but Times New Viking proves that their subtlety can be just as rewarding.